Blue Bloods: The First Season
Paramount // Unrated // $64.99 // September 13, 2011
Review by Nick Hartel | posted October 15, 2011
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"Blue Bloods" is yet another police procedural introduced to prime time audiences, with the "twist" of a large portion of the show focusing on the Reagan family. Directly leading the NYPD, widower Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) is forced to balance the pressures of his duty as Police Commissioner, while maintaining loyalty to his three children, Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) a NYPD detective with a reputation for bending the rules, Jamie (Will Estes) a rookie officer, and Erin (Bridget Moynahan), an ADA. Rounding out the Reagan clan is former commissioner and Frank's father, Henry (Len Cariou). With a richly intertwined cast of characters, "Blue Bloods" struggles early on in finding a balance between its dual identities: cop drama or family drama?

The pilot episode does a good job of giving viewers a capsule look at what "Blue Bloods" will do over the course of its 22-episode debut season. The writers do their best to establish the Reagan clan as unique personalities, but inadvertently (or maybe not) end up making each character a caricature of idealism and political values. The two characters who suffer the most are Danny and Erin, whose squabbles as brother and sister spill over into the legal world with Erin's by-the-book incredibly liberal idealism conflicting with Danny's sense of true justice, even if it means dunking a child killer's head in a toilet. Danny's character fares far better due to the talents of Wahlberg who is confident as a detective. Moynahan's performance on the other hand is stiff and suffers from characterization that makes her, to be quite frank, unlikable. The intentions of the writing is obvious, make viewers along with the Reagan's themselves question the balance of justice versus the law, even if it means letting a child killer go free because his rights have been violated. Unfortunately, such an extreme case out of the starting gate sets a precedent that the series doesn't really improve on.

Inevitably, "Blue Bloods" begins to show signs of cracking as the episodes quickly resort to genre story staples early on including a human smuggling case and bomb plot before the 10th episode. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong about genre clichés, "Blue Bloods'" identity crisis of cop drama versus family drama results in the former getting the short end of the stick with many cases feeling like an afterthought or plot contrivance for the Reagan's to discuss at the weekly family dinner. By season end, an undercover conspiracy plot involving the youngest Reagan, Jamie firmly cements the idea that viewers should be tuning in for the Reagans, not the cases.

On the bright side, Selleck does a good, not great job as the head of the clan, turning in another understated, less-is-more performance that has made his run on the Jesse Stone moves such a success. It's easy to mistake some of his moves as wooden, but Frank's character is deep down, the most complex. He's a man whose forced to maintain professionalism as the head of the world's most famous police force, all while looking out for his children, dealing with the death of a son who was also a cop, and attempting to find love again after finding himself a widower. He's most unguarded when he turns to his father for advice and in the process, as viewers learn of the eldest Reagan's own run as commissioner, see Frank has just as many political obstacles as personal.

The family dinner scenes are where "Blue Bloods" serves up its finest work, with meals not ending with a big group hug and phony smile. Real conversation goes down and while the idealism is often on its most prominent display, the arguments and interruptions that garnish the meals give "Blue Bloods" its most human qualities. The meals are almost a metaphor for the series at large, some are pleasant and filling, while others satisfy hunger but end on a sour note. "Blue Bloods" is a series with some definite promise, namely its cast and shot-in-NYC look, but for it to remain a television fixture in years to come, it needs to step up is game or wind up forgotten in a year or two as another genre entry that fizzled out.


The Video

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer nicely captures the cool urban look of numerous New York locations with strong color reproduction and a clear image. Unfortunately, some on-location shots appear to suffer from some mild but noticeable DNR work as facial details in these instances are far less pronounced from interior sets where the detail is well above average and quite striking.

The Audio

The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track allows for clear and clean dialogue reproduction while lending the surrounds for music, the occasional crowed police station atmosphere and action set piece. The low-end is not as aggressive as the rest of the track would indicate it could be, but ultimately serviceable. A straight English 2.0 track is included as well as English SDH subtitles.

The Extras

On selected episodes, a gallery of deleted scenes is available, with the remaining special features spread across all six discs. A handful of featurettes end up being mostly promotional in nature. These include, "Creating the Characters," "Code Blue," "Keeping it Real," "Analyzing the Scene," "Empire State of Mind," and "Keeping it in the Family." Last but not least are a collection of promo spots and a gag reel.

Final Thoughts

"Blue Bloods" is far from a contender as the best current procedural on television and should wisely be approached as a family drama that utilizes the police angle as a common bonding element. While Selleck, Carious and Wahlberg do their best to keep the ship sailing smoothly, Estes and Moynahan are left in the cold as forgettable and unlikable respectively. Genre aficionados will likely enjoy the family twist and if they can get past the thinly written procedural elements, find "Blue Bloods" worth their time. Even the causal viewer will find some time spent with the Reagan's satisfying to a degree, but repeated visits is a whole other story. Recommended.

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